The Celebrity Chefs of the 1970s
Before culinary personalities like Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay stole the television and raided the bookstores, chefs came from all over the world to share their cuisine with housewives and aspiring cooks alike. Even if we don’t see their names quite as often anymore, they paved the way and changed the face of American food as we know it today. Here are the decade’s big four:
Known as the mother of the organic food movement and supporter of local sustainable agriculture, Alice Waters founded Chez Panisse in 1971 in Berkley. This originated California cuisine, which has spread throughout America as the foundation of today’s modern cuisine, with a focus on what we now know as organic. Sparked by a trip to France in her teens, Waters translated European techniques and traditions, like farmers’ markets and community gardens, into American culture through writing cookbooks and promoting food education. Waters used her passion to create a sociopolitical movement that she is still active in today.
James Beard began his food revolution in 1940 when he created the first major cookbook, Hors d’Oeuvre & Canapés. Beard appeared on many television and radio shows and was featured in several magazines and remained an important figure though the ’70s despite being accused of “selling out.” In the mid-’50s when Beard created two cooking schools, one in New York and the other in Seaside, OR, his influence became prominent enough to withstand the changing food environment. Spending his last 30 years traveling and spreading his love for fresh American cuisine, Beard was able to keep his name alive with the James Beard Foundation, which is still active today.
Through her television show The French Chef, Julia Child made cooking an enjoyable experience for housewives across the country from 1963 to 1976. Using fundamentals of educational programming rather than attempting to simply be a cooking show, Child was able to guide people to create entrees of any difficulty level while sharing history of the food and culture at the same time. By introducing French cooking to America, Child opened the door to other internationally inspired cookbooks and cooking shows.
Pierre Franey became successful with his column Sixty-Minute Gourmet published in the New York Times in 1976, which was created to help working Americans stray away from quick TV dinners. He also worked side-by-side with Craig Clairborne, the New York Times food critic, to create many cookbooks. Like Child, Franey took pride in bringing French cuisine to America without compromising ingredients or traditions, yet just making the recipes more simplistic. After being considered one of the first luxury French chefs, Franey passed away in October 1996.